“I think his head’s a little fucked up right now, but Gavin’s in love with you. I’m pretty sure when he comes back and gets one look at you, he won’t be able to resist.” Trevor rose and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Let’s just hope he doesn’t stay away for the next six months.”
Feeling as though Trevor ripped the only remaining piece of her heart from her chest, Emily tried to breathe. She stood and stared into his eyes, her voice trembling. “Do you honestly think he would stay away that long?”
“Em, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“No, you did. What would make you say that?”
Trevor chewed at the side of his lip and briefly looked away. He shrugged. “Gavin can implode when he wants to. I don’t know how long he’ll be gone.”
As thick disorientation melted across her mind, Emily brought her hand to her mouth. “Oh my God. I can’t… He can’t.” She started making her way toward the bar, her feet moving quicker than her body could comprehend. She reached underneath the counter for her purse, coat, and scarf, her heart rate taking off.
“Look, I shouldn’t have said that.” Trevor approached the bar, his expression full of regret. “He can come back tomorrow—”
“Or in six months,” she breathed, walking past him.
As she reached for the door, her chest squeezed, tightening with panic. A shiver moved through her when she stepped out of the restaurant. With her mind speeding a mile a minute, Emily tossed on her jacket and scurried, almost running, through swarms of bodies clogging the sidewalk. Car horns, conversations, and sirens danced around her, but she couldn’t hear any of it. She felt deaf to it all.
The only sound she heard was Gavin’s voice whispering in her ear, Gavin’s laugh humming through the air, and Gavin’s heart lulling her to sleep. A rush of tears fell at the thought of him being gone that long. Nine days nearly sank her. She knew six months would kill her.
As the front of the Chrysler building came into her view, uncertainty about what she was about to do rippled across Emily’s skin. But no matter how uncertain she was, she wasn’t about to let it stop her. Before she knew it, she found herself entering the lobby. As soon as she did, she felt the air whoosh from her lungs.
Her eyes locked onto the back of a gentleman leaned up against the information desk. Her vision blurred with black hair and a muscular physique matching Gavin’s. She came to a complete standstill as she watched him leisurely tuck his hand into the pocket of his pants and run the other through his hair the same way Gavin did. Trying to suck in nonexistent air, Emily slowly moved in his direction. Consciousness void of what her body was doing, she lifted a trembling hand and tapped his shoulder. Senses craving Gavin, Emily attempted to pull in the scent of his cologne before he turned around. When he did, she was met by unfamiliar eyes, an unfamiliar face, and an unfamiliar smile. Her racing heart plummeted to her feet.
“Can I help you?” the man asked.
Unable to move, speak, or think, Emily stared at the stranger. Hit by a sudden wave of nausea, she felt dizzy as she opened her mouth in an effort to say something. Nothing came out.
“Miss, are you okay?” With trepidation, the man placed his hands on Emily’s arms. “You look like you’re going to pass out.”
Emily cleared her throat, shook her head, and backed away. “I’m… I’m so sorry. I thought…” She couldn’t finish her sentence. Blinking once, Emily turned and squeezed into the crowded elevator, her compulsion to press on nearly irresistible.
A woman in a red twill business suit craned her head around. “Which floor do you need?” she asked tersely.
Emily tried to regain some sense of reality, establish a hint of mental balance as she looked at the woman. But it wouldn’t come. “I’m not sure.”
At this, the woman laughed and shrugged.
An older gentleman with a pleasant smile spoke up. “What’s the name of the company you’re looking for?”
“Blake Industries,” Emily answered, lifting her hand to her forehead.
“I’m familiar with it, and the two very charismatic owners,” the man clipped. He gestured with his head to the less-than-friendly, red twill business suit-wearing woman peering over her shoulder. “That’s the 62nd floor. Be nice and press it for this young lady.”
With every effort she could gather, Emily smiled at the man. He nodded and winked. As the elevator opened and closed on each floor, Emily couldn’t help but sink into the memory of her and Gavin standing in the exact same elevator the first time she met him. Though the small space was still half full with others, in that moment, it was just him and her.
“She’s not my girlfriend if that’s what you’re wondering.”
“And who’s to say I was?”
“And who’s to say you weren’t?”
The memory faded when the gentleman nudged her arm, letting her know they’d reached the 62nd floor. She rejected her sudden impulse to leave the building. Nodding in thanks, Emily brushed past a few people and stepped from the elevator. Once in the reception area, her gaze swept over a sand-blasted glass wall showcasing the name ‘Blake Industries.’ She swallowed and made her way to the receptionist seated behind a tall, crescent-shaped mahogany desk.
The dark-haired woman looked up from a computer screen, her smile warm and welcoming. “Can I help you?”
Emily nodded, somehow managing a smile. “Yes. I need to speak with Colton Blake.”
“I apologize, but Mr. Blake’s in a meeting right now. If you like, you can take a seat and wait for him. He shouldn’t be more than another ten minutes.” She gestured toward a seating area adjacent to a dozen or so cubicles. “Can I have your name, please?”
“I’ll let him know you’re waiting, Miss Cooper.” The woman gave her another smile.
“Thank you.” Emily went to turn around, but before she could, her attention shifted to an opening office door. Her nerves skyrocketed when she saw Colton stroll out, his deep, hearty chuckle hanging in the air as he shook hands with a man who’d exited the office with him. Emily felt ill when Colton’s eyes latched on hers.
His jovial demeanor shifted almost immediately, his expression clear of any emotion. Staring at her, his mouth parted slightly as his eyes flitted between her and his business associate. Emily tensed and watched him rake a hand through his hair as he attempted to regain the friendly smile he was wearing just seconds before. Tugging anxiously at the hem of her white, button-down work shirt, Emily waited as he showed the man to the elevators. His gaze fell on hers once more before bidding the client a farewell.
“We’ll catch up next week, Tom,” Colton said, pressing the button for the elevator. “Tell Ellie I said hello and my mother should be calling her soon for brunch.”
“Will do,” the man answered with a clipped nod. He disappeared into the elevator when it opened.
“Mr. Blake,” the secretary chimed, “you have a Miss Cooper here to see you.”
“I see. Thank you, Natalie.” Turning to face Emily, Colton dipped his head in greeting. “Emily.”